DHS forecasts 5-year threat view

Threat perspective looks at world politics, materials availability to terrorists and more


A 2008 Interagency Intelligence Committee on Terrorism assessment said that Hezbollah members based in the U.S. do local fundraising through charity projects and criminal activity, like money laundering, smuggling, drug trafficking, fraud and extortion, according to the homeland security assessment.

In addition, the cyber terror threat is expected to increase over the next five years, as hacking tools become more sophisticated and available. "Youthful, Internet-savvy extremists might apply their online acumen to conduct cyber attacks rather than offer themselves up as operatives to conduct physical attacks," according to the assessment.

Currently, Islamic terrorists, including al-Qaida, would like to conduct cyber attacks, but they lack the capability to do so, the assessment said. The large-scale attacks that are on al-Qaida's wishlist - such as disrupting a major city's water or power systems - require sophisticated cyber capabilities that the terrorist group does not possess.

But al-Qaida has the capability to hire sophisticated hackers to carry out these kinds of attacks, the assessment said. And federal officials believe that in the next three to five years, al-Qaida could direct or inspire cyber attacks that target the U.S. economy.

Counterterrorism expert Frank Cilluffo says the typical cyber attack would not achieve al-Qaida's main goal of inflicting mass devastation with its resulting widespread media coverage. However, al-Qaida is likely to continue to rely on the Internet to spread its message, said Cilluffo, who runs the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University.

Officials also predict that domestic terrorists in the forms of radical animal rights and environmental extremists will become more adept with explosives and increase their use of arson attacks.